How far would you go to get to a beach? That’s the question Zickie and I were asking ourselves today as we hunted for an elusive stretch of sand in the northern reaches of a little island called Carriacou. One of Grenada’s three isles, Carriacou can only be reached by ferry or small (and I do mean very small) plane. Its area adds up to a mere 13 square miles. But Zickie and I had heard that this diminutive place packs a lot of charm – not to mention breathtaking beaches – into its modest acreage.
(Island Runaways' Laura on a Carriacou beach)
Did Carriacou live up to its reputation? Let’s just say that the beaches did impress us both, and we have three special, sandy spots to share with you in later posts. For now, though, I have to admit that this one adventure almost got the best of us. It started out innocently enough: Zickie and I set out, armed with a guidebook with extremely detailed directions, to find what was rumored to be THE most beautiful beach on the island. Each of us read over the directions twice, since most roads aren’t signed on Carriacou (or on larger Grenada, for that matter).
We headed north from the little village of Bogles on the High North Nature Reserve track, an unpaved road you need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to navigate. (Unless you hike on foot.) The plan: first visit Anse La Roche beach, then head slightly east to Petit Carenage. A photographer’s dream, apparently. To find the first? Look for a boulder with a red marking and a painted turtle. For the second? Simply look for the sign marked “Petit Carenage Mangrove.” Then follow a path marked with conch shells. Easy, right?
(So close, yet still so far)
Not quite. The driving itself definitely wasn’t for the faint hearted. Fortunately, Zickie has tons of experience piloting Land Rovers through the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, so we made the journey over the unpaved, unmarked and twisting road through forest without incident. However, no boulder appeared. Neither did any signs pointing to Mangrove. Down below, way below, we spotted an abandoned ship on the shore – indicating Petit Carenage beach. But how the heck to get way, way down there? When we reached yet another small village, we hailed a local man walking past and asked, “How do we get to Petit Carenage?”
He kindly explained we needed to backtrack, see a (large) sign for Petit Carenage village, park beside a long wall, then look for the path downwards to the beach. After thanking him effusively, Zickie turned around in a very tight space and we made out way back, found the wall, parked, and looked for the path. Easy, right? Not so much. We almost headed down several places that might have been paths…if you really, truly used your imagination.
(Aha! The sign.)
Fortunately, I remained skeptical, and we walked on until we spotted the genuine path. The sign? Small, weathered, and very hard to spot if you’re driving. No matter! Thank goodness we'd identified it at last. We hiked down the steep entrance and discovered a path lined with conch shells.
(The path lined with conchs)
No other human beings or animals, except a few long lizards, emerged as we walked. So we walked, onwards past a garbage dump, past a field of green salt-resistant scrub, and onwards a little more. And then…
(Salt-resistant plants extending for acres)
Emerged onto a spectacular crescent of beige sand. Jaws appropriately dropped. “Oh. My. Gosh,” I gasped. Intoxicatingly aqua blue ocean swirled ashore in long swells that crashed upon the shell-covered sand. Conch shells lay scattered by the sea. The abandoned boat stood at one end, and punctuated the beach with a burst of color. In the distance, we could see Petite Martinique, the tiny third island that belongs to the nation of Grenada.
(Our jaws dropped as we absorbed this beauty.)
Walking this beach in utter solitude turned out to be quite a remarkable experience. In another place, Petit Carenage beach might be filled with vacationers, beach bars, and high-rise condos. But here on Carriacou? It proved so challenging to find that we almost missed it. The only disappointment? The wind blew so strongly that the water was not safe for swimming. Although Zickie and I love adventure, swimming in seas with iron-grip currents and dangerous undertows is not our idea of a fun morning. Definitely better safe than sorry. So instead, we walked the sand, looked for shells, snapped a lot of photos, drank some much-needed bottled water, and felt the intense warmth of the sun’s rays.
(Petit Carenage beach with Petite Martinique island in the background)
As we stood staring at the scenery, I asked Zickie, “Do you think it was worth it?”
He turned to me, still clutching his camera, and grinned. “Absolutely.”